AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Chance of a Lifetime
Alternate Title: The Gamble of Boston Blackie
Director: William Castle (Dir)
Release Date:   26 Oct 1943
Production Date:   26 Jul--9 Aug 1943
Duration (in mins):   66
Duration (in feet):   5,914
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Cast:   Chester Morris (Boston Blackie)  
    Erik Rolf (Dooley Watson)  
    Jeanne Bates (Mary Watson)  
    Richard Lane (Inspector Farraday)  
    George E. Stone (The Runt)  
    Lloyd Corrigan (Arthur Manleder)  
    Walter Sande (Sgt. Matthews)  
    Douglas Fowley (Nails Blanton)  
    Cy Kendall (Jumbo Madigan)  
    Larry Joe Olsen (Johnny Watson)  
    Sally Cairns (Richie Adair)  
    Trevor Bardette (Manny Vogel)  
    Harry Somels (Egypt Hines)  
    Arthur Hunnicutt (Elwood "Tex" Stewart)  
    Eddie Bruce (Sandy)  
    Heinie Conklin (Desk sergeant)  
    Marie de Becker (Miss Bailey)  
    Maude Eburne (Miss Counihan)  
    Eddie Chandler (Policeman)  
    Ray Teal (Policeman)  
    Frank O'Connor (Policeman)  
    George Magrill (Policeman)  
    Joel Friedkin (Joel Painter)  
    Jerome Franks Jr. (George Phillips)  
    Kit Guard (Wilfred Thompson)  
    Al Murphy (William Jones)  
    Sidney Melton (Stephen Hines)  
    Brian O'Hara (Parker Gray)  
    Dick Rush (Policeman Lally)  
    John Tyrrell (Driver)  
    Pierre Watkin (Governor Rutledge)  
    George Anderson (Warden Edwards)  
    Forbes Murray (Chairman)  
    Ben Erway (Warden Root)  
    Jack Carr (Carpetman)  
    Dick Alexander (Carpetman)  
    Robert Hale (British newsman)  
    John Harmon (Red Taggart)  
    Minta Durfee    
    Jessie Arnold    

Summary: Boston Blackie, a reformed safecracker and Good Samaritan, convinces the governor to parole twelve convicts into his custody so that they can join the war effort working at his friend Arthur Manleder's tool factory. The parolees are to live in Blackie's apartment, but on their first night of freedom, Blackie allows one of them, Dooley Watson, to visit his wife Mary and son Johnny. The next day at the Manleder factory, Inspector Farraday, Blackie's nemesis, comes to inspect the newly discharged convicts. When Farraday discovers that Dooley is missing, he thinks that the convict went to retrieve the $60,000 he stole before going to jail. Meanwhile, at Mary's apartment, Dooley arrives with the $60,000 and tells his wife that they must leave town before his accomplices in the robbery, Red Taggart and Nails Blanton, can track him down. Appealing to her husband's finer instincts, Mary convinces him to return the money. At that moment, Nails and Red, who have rented an apartment in Mary's building, knock at the door and demand their share from the robbery. After Dooley claims that he dropped the money while fleeing the police, Nails pulls out a gun and orders Red to search the apartment. When Red threatens little Johnny, Dooley moves to protect his son, and in the ensuing struggle, the gun fires and kills Red. Seconds later, Blackie arrives and Nails runs out of the apartment. Realizing that Farraday will never believe Dooley's story, Blackie takes the money and the gun and sends the parolee back to the factory while he and his sidekick, The Runt, dispose of Red's body. As Blackie and Runt drag Red back to his apartment, Farraday arrives and arrests Blackie for murder. To avoid jeopardizing the parolees, Blackie confesses that he shot Red and hands over the money. Meanwhile, at Blackie's apartment, the convicts rally to Blackie's defense and force Dooley to tell them the truth. They are just about to take Dooley to headquarters when Blackie arrives in Farraday's custody. Claiming that he needs privacy to bid his friends farewell, Blackie sends Farraday and his assistant, Sergeant Matthews, into the hallway. After telling the convicts that he plans to find Nails and wring a confession from him, Blackie and Runt escape and return to Nails's apartment. Discovering that two police officers are guarding the apartment, they pose as carpet cleaners to gain admission. When the real carpet cleaners appear, Blackie and Runt slip through the back door. To decoy the police out of the apartment, Blackie calls headquarters and, while pretending to be Farraday, orders that the officers be recalled. Blackie and Runt then return to search Nails's apartment, but when Farraday deduces Blackie's scheme, he drives to the building. While Runt and Blackie escape in the dumb waiter, Nails calls Dooley and informs him that he has kidnapped Mary and Johnny, demanding the money in exchange for their freedom. That night, Dooley meets Nails and tells him that Blackie has the money. Meanwhile, at Blackie's apartment, Manleder is having a discussion with the parolees when Blackie appears. When Manleder informs him about Dooley's predicament, Blackie decides to use the money to trap Nails. Disguised as scrubwomen, Runt and Blackie penetrate police headquarters and remove the money from the safe. When Nails reads the headlines about the theft, he goes to Jumbo Madigan's pawn shop in search of Blackie. Blackie is there waiting for him, and after Nails pulls out a gun and accompanies Blackie to his apartment to retrieve the money, Jumbo notifies Farraday. Nails is greeted at the apartment by Manleder and the parolees, who tie a rope around him and drop him from a window, threatening to let him fall to the street unless he confesses. Farraday then breaks down Blackie's door just in time to witness Nails's confession, exonerating both Blackie and Dooley. His social experiment a success, Blackie has a second group of convicts paroled into his custody. 

Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corp.  
Distribution Company: Columbia Pictures Corp.  
Director: William Castle (Dir)
  Earl Bellamy (Asst dir)
Producer: Wallace MacDonald (Prod)
Writer: Paul Yawitz (Orig scr)
Photography: Ernie Miller (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Lionel Banks (Art dir)
  Paul Murphy (Assoc)
Film Editor: Jerome Thoms (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Robert Priestley (Set dec)
Music: M. W. Stoloff (Mus dir)
Make Up: H. Clay Campbell (Makeup artist)
Country: United States
Series: Boston Blackie

Source Text: Based on the character created by Jack Boyle.
Authors: Jack Boyle

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Columbia Pictures Corp. 15/10/1943 dd/mm/yyyy LP12305

PCA NO: 9551
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Detective
Subjects (Major): Amateur detectives
  False accusations
  Police inspectors
Subjects (Minor): Confession (Law)
  Fathers and sons
  Female impersonation

Note: The working title of this film was The Gamble of Boston Blackie . In the onscreen credits, makeup artist H. Clay Campbell was listed as "S. Clay Campbell." This picture marked William Castle's directoral debut and the screen debut of Jeanne Bates. According to materials contained in NARS, the Los Angeles Board of Review disapproved this picture for export because of its depiction of the police as ineffectual and the many lawless activities contained in the film. For additional information on the Boston Blackie series, please consult the Series Index and see the entry below for Meet Boston Blackie

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   25 Oct 43   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Oct 43   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald   16-Oct-43   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   18 Sep 43   p. 1545.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   16 Oct 43   p. 1586.
Variety   22 Dec 43   p. 12.

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